Pick A Winner

I am going to begin this weeks musing with a look back at last week and the Racing For Change experiment with free admission.

I think it has been universally agreed that numbers increased at all the venues where the initiative was tried out. Of course, we still need the bean counters to look at the figures to see if free admission is financially viable.

I mention the experiment again as this week we had a first hand comparison as Huntingdon had a free evening meeting last week and a “normal” evening meeting this week.

The contrast between the two was stark. A crowd of almost three thousand turned up for what was really a sub-standard meeting. Yet this week, where the racing was arguably more competitive, I would be surprised if the figures would have reached 1,000.

So what does this tell us – well possibly that people were not attracted enough by the racing to come back as paying customers or maybe people just want something for nothing. I somehow suspect it is the latter.

Interestingly this week also saw the Chester May meeting, a meeting I have to say I avoid like the plague – not because of the racing but because of the boozed up crowd and the inability to be able to move around the course with any ease. Chester have the highest admission prices in the country, yet two of the three days were sold out well in advance.

Illustrating, perhaps, that offering free admission will not be a “one size fits all” solution.

Last week I received an e-mail from a regular reader of my musings, for all I know maybe the only regular reader of my musings, pointing out an experience he had point-to-pointing  the previous weekend. (He is a great fan of the pointing scene and is always trying to persuade me to attend – one day I will, I promise)

He told me about the couple standing next to him who had managed to pick the winner of the previous race, their method – selecting the horse with the nicest teeth.

The annoying thing is, it does not surprise me in the least.

My wife tolerates, rather than enjoys going racing. Mainly because she feels left out and ignored when I am working in the press room. The only time she absolutely insists on coming racing with me is when I go to Cartmel and the attraction is more the village store and its sticky toffee pudding rather than the racing. Although the occasional foray to Ascot is sometimes on her agenda.

The mail about how to select winners reminded me of a trip to Ascot a few years ago. This was before I was working in racing and we had a family trip, my wife and I and my in-laws set off to a meeting at Ascot, which I think was the precursor to what is now the Shergar Cup.

My father-in-law, a great racing fan, and I both assiduously studied the form and came to the same conclusion in the big race – our nap of the day. My wife, on the other hand, likes to look at the runners in the parade ring, usually going for a horse that “smiles” at her. On this occasion though it was one of the jockeys who caught her eye, who she described as being “cute”. The fact he was riding the 33/1 outsider was irrelevant to her, that is where her fiver was going.

I suspect, dear reader, you are already ahead of me on this one and you would not be wrong.

Our “dead cert” may well have been dead – completely unsighted. Whereas the 33/1 “rag” was given a brilliant tactical ride, coming home some two lengths clear.

This isn’t the first occasion where studying the form has been futile. When I was working in the “real world” we had a night greyhound racing. Again a few of us spent hours going through the form and from the 12 race card picked up about four winners. One of the group, dare I say a female? Used the technique of betting on “the pretty brown ones” and I hate to say it she picked eight winners and was the only one of our group to make a profit on the night.

It does make you wonder if studying the form book really is worthwhile!! I know to my wife all the form book means is a big folder cluttering up the house she tries to keep tidy.

So I think I will throw away the form book. When I am in the parade ring at Towcester tomorrow evening I will forget all about the conformation of the horses. Instead I will look for the pretty brown one who turns round and flashes a smile at me and that is the one I will back.

If it also happens to be ridden by a cute jockey I will put my life savings on the beast.

With luck my next update will come to you from the Seychelles.   

Do you know of any strange ways of picking winners? If so let us know by e-mail

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